Five years, 7 months

I slid one final spiral notebook into my backpack and stared with a blank expression at the contents within. It was odd that after five years, seven months, six roles, and two IDs, the sum of my time at this company could fit into such a small container.

I threw the strap over my shoulder, made my way to the glass electronic doors and stopped. “One last sweep”, I told myself.

I walked to where my old team used to sit together. A year before, there had been 15 of us in various roles. Then 8, then 4, and now only 3 remained once I crossed the threshold. The empty seats had been an open wound this past year. A stark reminder that redundancy was somewhere around the corner.

I circled the whole floor, looking for anyone to say goodbye to me, to make these last few years mean something to anyone not me. But the faces were unfamiliar. When a hundred people or more work on the same floor together, they don’t tend to learn each other’s names unless they must.

Finally, I caught the eye of a familiar face and smiled. We hugged, though neither of us were the hugging type. And as I talked about the interviews I had lined up and how much I’d miss seeing them, another joined us. Soon there was a tiny group of people giving me goodbye hugs and a version of the same three words, “We’ll miss you,” and for a moment, I believed every single one of them. Truth was, the constant flow of redundancies had left everyone desensitized to this goodbye routine. It was simply another day at the office.

When the group had dispersed, I wiped the non-existent tears from my eyes and walked through the double elevator doors. The weight in my backpack lightened as I realized I was free from a life of constant uncertainty.

I stepped out into the city and let myself hope again.

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Birthday Lessons

You see Christy from across the movie theatre lounge as you enter the girls’ toilets; your family is waiting for you single file at the exit. She’s with another girl from your school. They’re laughing and carrying on, oblivious to your presence.

Christy’s the girl you wish you were. She’s not popular but not at the bottom end of the popularity scale either, somewhere in the middle of the junior high classism. She’s smart, but not too smart. And her parents have money. (You don’t want to believe you’re poor, but the frayed edges of your oversized jeans says otherwise.) Their house is in the neighborhood where you always go during Christmas light season. The rich people areas. You know this, because you went to her birthday party two weeks ago.

***

You remember the surprise you felt getting your first birthday party invitation. The cream envelope had the correct spelling of your name, written in adult hands. You think back to all the days in band hall that Christy and you sat next to each other. Maybe there was a bond you didn’t realize was there.

Birthday parties are only for friends, right?

But then, you remember what a fool you made of yourself at the party. You might have told everyone you weren’t “allowed” to play Truth or Dare, even though your parents weren’t there to see you playing. You sat by yourself watching the others have fun and even laughed a few times. Then you thought of the most epic dare. You joined them. You dared a boy you didn’t like to pull a booger out of his nose and eat it. Only thing was you forgot to ask “Truth or dare?” first. You definitely didn’t blush when you realized your mistake.

***

So you are in the bathroom now. The corner stall. You hear giggles and Christy entering the bathroom. For a second, you wonder if she might be talking about your family. Something about them being freaks, but it’s probably just your imagination.

“Did I tell you? She was at my birthday party. Wouldn’t even play Truth or Dare,” Christy says.

“Why do that to yourself?” the other girl asks.

“Mom made me. As punishment for driving my brother’s car. She sent invitations out to all the kids I complained about during the last semester of school.”

“No way! Talk about worst party ever.”

“No kidding. What’s worse is for two weeks, she assumed I was her friend.”

“Gross.”

“You’re telling me.”

You stifle back a cry and push your feet towards the porcelain bowl so they don’t realize you’re there.

You wait until they both entered their stalls before tiptoeing out of the bathroom, leaving a piece of your 13-year-old heart in the toilet. “Friends are overrated,” you try to convince yourself as you and your family climb into the car. “Who needs them anyway?”

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Trans Ally

Earlier this year, my sibling shared publicly that they were enby. I admit, I never heard the term before, so I did what most writers do. I researched it. As the days progressed, my sibling posted photos of themselves with tags like #enby, #mensdepartment, and #womensdepartment. The waters were muddied, and I did not know how to tackle this subject.

I believed myself to be a trans-ally, but I was confused. What was enby?

I stayed quiet for two weeks as I tried to grapple with the meaning of it all. Ultimately, it took my sibling reaching out to talk to me. I sheepishly told them I was exploring the internet to understand what it meant. They explained not to search the internet for answers. There’s nothing wrong with asking them directly what it means for them, because as I would later realize…

It means different things for different people.

A quick Google search will tell you enby means non-binary (it comes from the letters NB). Non-binary equates to identifying as neither male nor female. Here’s a list of nonbinary identities, which isn’t definitive, but handy for helping define the genders. Enbies may not know what their exact identification is, early on. There is still so much to learn about the spectrum that is gender identity.

Many people will say that there is no such thing as non-binary. You either have male or female parts and that defines your gender, and some heteros and LGB persons may vehemently attest that transgender people are an abomination. From a physical standpoint, there are intersex people with both reproductive parts, and while it isn’t the norm, it does occur. So why should it be any different for the metaphysical?

Many indigenous peoples believed in more than two genders.

My family is from the Choctaw Nation, a tribe which defined up to seven genders. The idea of two genders comes from Western sensibilities, and over time, the acceptance of multi-genders diminished in the name of “progress”.
It’s time to accept that there are certain things we may not understand but should be willing to embrace. As a cisgendered white-appearing female in a heterosexual relationship, I will never completely understand, but I can be an ally for fair treatment and equal rights for transgender persons.

The enby journey is tough, and society is a large part of that.

They are often mistreated, misjudged, or simply ignored. In the state of Texas where my sibling lives, they do not accept more than the binary genders, so when they changed their name to reflect their gender, they could not change their gender.

But more than that, you can’t walk into a mall without seeing genders in stores, departments, and bathrooms. There are assigned pronouns (like with cars, for crying out loud), and the list goes on. Babies are gendered before they are even born. He and she is embedded in us before we know how to talk, and people are angered if another person misclassifies their child. So…

It’s natural that one of the biggest ways to show yourself as an ally is to reprogram the way you talk about people.

You may have noticed that since the start of this piece, I have not used binary pronouns, especially to describe my sibling. Until this point, you have had to accept that I have a sibling and that they are non-binary. In writing, it’s easy to correct the occasional foible, but when I’m talking about my sibling in a casual setting, old habits really do die hard. It has been my biggest learning curve thus far, and I continue to work on it.

It’s okay to make mistakes, though, and to own them, but for trans persons, you do not have to make a big deal about it when you do. They accept that this will happen. It’s hard to reprogram something you didn’t even realize was programmed in you.

So if you take anything away from my piece today, please let it be this: if you have a transgender person in your life, embrace the newfound freedom that comes from accepting something they have probably known for years. Support them and show it through the power of your words. But most of all. Don’t research the internet to find answers only they can provide. Simply ask them what it means for them.
Trust me, they want you to know.

This piece has been written with input from my sibling and faer permission to publish.

This piece has also been edited from its original form to remove words which have been deemed problematic. This list from GLAAD was sent to me by another trans ally following this publication. Thanks for bringing it to my attention and giving me a valuable resource!

(image source)

The First

CW: sex
TW: sexual trauma (warning also pertains to any links within)

It hurts. A lot. Just like Momma told me.

He stops and gives me a kiss. A tiny stream trickles from the corner of my eye. I can’t quite tell if I’m happy or scared.

I have come a long way, though. Six years before, it grossed me out. It was this dirty, vile thing. I couldn’t even bring myself to take those pink, blue, and white pills for my acne. I didn’t want others to assume I was “active.” Three years before, the notion of sex disgusted me. You’re supposed to wait until you’re married to do it and even then only out of necessity – to keep your husband happy.

It took a good friend, a book on sexual trauma, and days of therapeutic discussion to overcome some of my own traumas. Of them, there were many.

For now, I try to ignore Mom’s voice in my head. All their voices – the pastor and my teachers and that counselor that showed grotesque images of sexually transmitted diseases on a giant screen in our high school auditorium. I am past all of that. I am clear of their programming.

Nevertheless, it feels peculiar. Nothing at all like I expected. Admittedly, I didn’t know what to expect.

I flinch and bite my lip as he goes all the way in.

“Are you okay?” he asks.

He is trying to be gentle. He knows, and somehow, that didn’t scare him away as I thought it might. How often do you hear of a 25-year-old virgin, after all?

I swallow. “Ca-can-can we stop?” I ask.

“Of course,” he replies with no hint of disappointment or dissatisfaction.

He pulls out and lays down beside me. His hand grabs mine, and he squeezes.

“I’m sorry,” I utter in a meek tone.

“Stop that. You have nothing to be sorry about,” he says.

I turn over and lay my arm across his chest.

“Thank you,” I say, surprised and grateful.

His chest is damp from my tears, and this time I know the emotion for sure – it’s happiness.

Two days later, I overcome my fears, all those years of programming, and accept sex as a natural thing between two people. (Though, maybe still a little dirty.)


A Lost Rhapsody

At 11, I was well aware that our little trips to Hastings were lame. This was my one joy in the world, though, so I tried not to care (too much).

We piled out of the minivan together, our army of five, and entered the store in a semi-single file.

Once the doors closed behind us, all semblance of order disappeared. Brother and sister walked to the movie or music section. Mom looked for the cookbook area, but Dad and I hovered at the entrance for a few moments, torn between which sections to take. Some days he’d go straight for the fantasy book department, sometimes the movies, and sometimes the music. I didn’t always follow him, but my tastes matched his.

As I walked towards the familiar call of dragons and sword fighters, Dad’s head jerked up towards the speakers. “Mamma Mia, Mamma Mia,” an odd falsetto voice bellowed. His eyes grew wide and his lips spread out into a smile. He walked straight to the CD racks, and I followed with curiosity.

I’d never listened to the song before, but Dad went straight for the Q section of the CD racks. I wondered if Queen sang the song. We owned their Greatest Hits Vol 2. I’d worn out the tape long ago, and the CD replacement was a frequent fixture in our 5CD turntable. I asked Dad once if there was a Volume 1, and he had said with sadness it never wasn’t available at Hastings.

I tried to make out the words and the song, but Dad’s grumbles were all I could hear.

He stomped over to the counter and asked pointing up into thin air, “Where can I find this song?”

His remaining hand looked ready to pull the clerk across the counter by the collar of his unkempt shirt.

“Dude. It’s just the soundtrack to Wayne’s World,” he said with a roll of his eyes that said “Can you believe this guy? Damn old people!”

Dad walked away, defeated. “I really wanted you to listen to Bohemian Rhapsody,” he said patting my head. “I just know you’d love it.”

We walked out of the store empty-handed in mild defeat. Wayne’s World was no longer in theatres, and it would be months before it came out on video.

Dad turned on the radio with a sigh and drove the Loop, a highway which circled the whole city in under 15 minutes. After his second lap, the radio announcer mentioned, “Never played on KBUS, Bohemian Rhapsody, back on the charts thanks to a new movie coming out this year. Enjoy.”

And enjoy we did!